Slow down. Focus. Rest.
I’ve heard these things before and I’ve heard a lot more of them in the last two months. It has been an impossible thing to do this last year—year and a half, really. I purposely filled my schedule following Worlds as an attempt to cover up the pain of the event being over and the approaching loss of my grandma. I did it knowing exactly what I was doing, it was my way of coping. Yet, there many of my friends were saying to breathe, to take a break. I acknowledged it in that I added it to a list after EO tryouts. Therein may have been the problem all along. I wanted to schedule our rest like the remainder of the goals for 2016 and 2017, but, alas, toe pain.
Bolt came up limping after class towards the end of October. I felt that same crushing weight that I had just shed from my shoulders come back. I had begun training without fear when we returned from AWC. For a little while anyway, I felt like we didn’t need to walk on eggshells—the bubble wrap could be put away for a time. But there he was, limping. I emailed my (very patient) chiropractor, vented through texts to my best friend, and fought a lump that had welled in my throat. The usual suspect was his shoulder, something I consistently condition, stretch, and manage with chiropractic– he was perfect just the month before, perfect—yet, there was no pain, no heat. My hands traced down his leg to his foot, his toes. I flexed it, he cried.
Relief is generally not something I feel with that sound, but in this case it was. I found the afflicted toe and he cried again with flexion. He was at the vet the next day—no breaks, no dislocations. Inflammation around the joint likely from a strong whack during agility, or maybe just moving it the wrong way, no way to tell and no real solution for it other than, yes, rest.
Life quickly complicated in the week following Bolt’s toe-incident. I won’t rehash everything that happened here, but it was messy, and frankly maybe it was for the best that he was crate restricted. Both Bolt and Nike stayed with a friend the last night I slept at my grandmother’s and when I returned, beaten from that day, exhausted, I could tell something was off again. I think we rushed him into activity after only a short stint of crate rest. Maybe introducing the impact of stairs only 10 days after his initial injury was ill-thought, but life had sort of pushed my hand. It certainly wasn’t as bad as it was originally was, but there was soreness again. At least there was no limp.
I crossed off the first three goals I had set for 2016-2017.
Finding motivation with Bolt on rest has proven to be a very difficult task. The fact that this coincided with the loss of my grandma has maybe made it worse. I wanted nothing more than agility as an outlet—to hike in the woods with my heart, to be taken away for a little while. Instead, I was forced to face it, to feel every corner of it without the relief of distraction. In it, I cursed the universe and felt sorry for myself (briefly). Stepping back, maybe it was what I needed.
Our break is temporary. I’m immensely grateful for that and aware that others are not as fortunate. Perspective; always finding that. Goals of EOTT and Westminster were important, but they are not our primary focus. Instead, I’ve taken this as an opportunity to better prepare and condition ourselves for the events that we most value in the coming year. The timing, in the scheme of things, couldn’t be better. We have the time to rest and do it properly, so we will. I just want so much to be able to push off the worry that hangs back over my head, though. I don’t want to be back to the obsessively-cautious, afraid self that I was last year. I want to channel the old Paulette mindset of everything’s fine, so why worry about it? So I will.
This last year was one of change and I think the coming will be one of strength both mentally and physically. So this is where that starts. With facing grief and loss, with supporting our friends as they compete in the sport we so miss, and the knowledge that we will return stronger than ever. It will influence the way I view this sport moving forward and especially how I plan my coming years of agility. I will be especially grateful for every run we have after this– even more than I did before if that’s possible.
For now though, we rest.